793.94 Conference/219: Telegram

The Chairman of the American Delegation (Davis) to the Secretary of State

24. For the President and the Secretary. The time is fast approaching when we shall have to consider what to do in the event that the Conference does not succeed in bringing the Japanese Government into negotiations for peace. The idea which you outlined at Hyde Park was to keep the Conference in existence if necessary for weeks or months, making approach after approach to Japan, in the hope that it would (a) exert a united moral pressure of world opinion on Tokyo and (b) enable public opinion at home and elsewhere [Page 176] to develop and crystallize. I fear that such a prolonged procedure is not practicable. Of all the delegations the British is the only other one which as yet seems to envision the objectives of such a strategy and which could be counted upon to cooperate fully in this respect. The other delegations are almost all unsympathetic to the idea of a prolonged Conference and I do not know for how long the British and ourselves could hold them in line.

Although the small powers are strongly opposed to what Japan is doing they are not sympathetic to the idea of a prolonged Conference for fear, based on their Ethiopian experience, that they may be drawn into some steps which the big powers would not pursue to a successful end and cause Japan to retaliate against them. We therefore should be considering what to do if the Japanese persist in refusal to consider resort to methods of conciliation and agreement.

Several possibilities are open.

The Conference could declare that it has tried in every conceivable way to induce Japan to join in efforts to bring about peace by agreement and had failed. It could enumerate the various efforts made and the various proposals and inquiries submitted and conclude that under the circumstances the delegations should all go home to consult with their Governments regarding future steps. Then, the Conference adjourning subject to later reconvening upon call by the Chairman, consultation might continue among the interested foreign offices. It might also appoint a committee. This course would (a) keep alive an agency which had neither condemned Japan nor advocated pressure against her and which might therefore eventually be of value in case Japan later decided to seek good offices; (b) keep necessary negotiations or adoption of concrete measures in the hands of two or three key powers. It would have as a disadvantage the element of Conference failure but there might be advantage in frank admission of such a failure.
The Conference might attempt to reach an agreement upon some form of united pressure upon Japan in the fields of trade and shipping. I feel that this is not the setting for that type of effort. Every move made is made known to the public. Almost every delegation except the British endeavors to make us appear in the forefront. If such an effort were made it seems likely that some delegations at least would endeavor to use it toward getting us associated in a political alignment of the democracies for purposes of their own in Europe.
We might envisage a middle and halfway course and advocate an agreement by the Conference powers in the form of a resolution embracing one or more, perhaps all of the following points:
To take no action discriminating against China in relation to China’s military effort;
To take no action toward persuading China to enter into an agreement involving unwilling concessions on her part;
To refrain from “recognizing” changes in the situation in China which are inconsistent with or contrary to the provisions of the Nine Power Treaty;
To supplement the policy of non-recognition by agreeing to give no countenance to any form of assistance especially loans, credits, et cetera, to Japan in connection with the hostilities or for activities thereafter in development of anything which she may have gained thereby;
To give no military assistance to Japan in the event of her becoming embroiled, before reaching a settlement by agreement with China, with any other of the Conference powers.

I feel that the above possible procedures should be given serious and immediate consideration.

Meanwhile the conviction is growing with me that the Neutrality Act as applicable at least to the Sino-Japanese conflict tends to negative our affirmation of high moral principles and advocacy of a moral pressure upon Japan. If the moral pressure fails and we have to draw completely into a shell or to adopt a more positive policy we may find ourselves embarrassed or impotent. Should Japan declare war and force upon us the application of the Neutrality Act we would not only be unable to give assistance to China to enable her to defend herself from invasion and to uphold a treaty to which we are a party but we would have to take action which would make it increasingly difficult for China to defend herself.

I, therefore, suggest and strongly urge that if in your judgment it is practicable you forthwith recommend to Congress a repeal or a suspension of the existing neutrality legislation at least insofar as concerns the Sino-Japanese conflict. This would startle and worry Japan, encourage the Chinese and have a dynamic effect upon world opinion. It might save us from being put in an awkward and unfortunate position detrimental to the interests of the United States.

I also suggest that you consider now recommending an appropriation for the construction of additional battleships which would indicate that we are taking a serious view of the Far Eastern situation and the general threat of international anarchy.